Practise what you feel

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Dennis Hayes seems to have focused on a very narrow view of reflective practice ("Theoretically how are you feeling?", FE Focus, April 29). I disagree with his view that "reflective practice is a philosophical cover up of the general shift in education over the past 25 years - from prioritising knowledge and skills to prioritising practice".

Surely, the experience of many thousands of learners who have suffered poor teaching, particularly in maths, would suggest that if some people had spent more time reflecting on how to improve their teaching, the dire situation we have with adults with poor functional numeracy and literacy skills would be less of a problem.

Here, at Queen's university Belfast, in the essential skills project, we have a view that reflective practice should encompass both individual student (essential skills tutor trainees) learning, their individual practice and the impact of the teaching and learning experience on adult students.

The assessment of this reflection incorporates evidence of wider reading (contradicting Hayes) and discussion of theories associated with learning and teaching as well as reflection in the use or otherwise of such theories in practice. Evidence requires feedback from learners to measure impact.

Reflective logs to Hayes are probably just that, logs or diaries of events, but real reflective journals, as evidenced by trainee adult tutors at Queen's, link their experiences of learning, reading and researching to the implementation of best practice in the classroom.

Reflecting feelings is an important learning activity. The requirements of the level 4 adult numeracy specifications have worried trainee tutors.

Being able to reflect on this issue has helped many over the barriers experienced in their school maths. If tutors can reflect on their own negative experiences and come out smiling, how they can empathise much more easily with their own students. Feelings need expressing as well!

I have worked in post compulsory education for many years as lecturer, manager and now as tutor educator, and am impressed that, at last, we are seeing the development of a potential workforce who can spend time reflecting on the practices in delivery of literacy and numeracy as part of a training programme.

My concern would be that there have been many off-the-shelf packages developed for "training programmes" which have given no opportunity for recipients to reflect or even adapt to the classroom situation.

Would we have the many thousands of adults with low functional literacy andor numeracy skills if we had given more time to reflecting on what was really happening in maths or English classrooms over the years?

Valerie Seabright

Teaching fellow

187 Stranmillis Road


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